Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday “victory” over ISIS in the city of Mosul, his office said, after a gruelling nearly nine-month battle , .
“The commander in chief of the armed forces (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people for the great victory,” said a statement from his office.
Iraqi forces launched the Mosul operation in October, first fighting their way to the city, retaking its east and then assaulting its western side, where some of the heaviest fighting occurred.
A US-trained elite Iraqi force in the Old City of Mosul reached the Tigris riverside, state TV said.
The militants have been driven from all but a patch of territory on the western bank of the Tigris bisecting Mosul, where they have staged a last stand in the narrow alleys of the Old City.
Plumes of smoke rose over the Old City on Sunday and the decaying corpses of ISIS fighters lay in the streets. Scattered bursts of gunfire could be heard and several airstrikes were carried out.
Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV earlier on Sunday that 30 militants had been killed attempting to get away by swimming across the Tigris.
ISIS vowed on Saturday to “fight to the death” in Mosul.
Cornered in a shrinking area of the city, the militants have resorted to sending women suicide bombers among the thousands of civilians who are emerging from the battlefield wounded, malnourished and fearful.
The battle has also exacted a heavy toll on Iraq’s security forces.
The Iraqi government does not reveal casualty figures, but a funding request from the US Department of Defense said the Counterterrorism Service, which has spearheaded the fight in Mosul, had suffered 40 percent losses.
The Department of Defense has requested $1.269 billion in US budget funds for 2018 to continue supporting Iraqi forces.
Without Mosul – by far the largest city to fall under militant control – ISIS’s dominion in Iraq will be reduced to mainly rural, desert areas west and south of the city where tens of thousands of people live.
It is almost exactly three years since the ultra-hardline group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a “caliphate” spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of the medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of ISIS’s “state of falsehood” a week ago, after security forces retook the mosque – although only after retreating militants blew it up.
The militants are expected to revert to insurgent tactics as they lose territory.
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